DOVER, Del. - The Sprint Cup Series is a complex and many-layered thing these days, but what NASCAR ultimately all comes down is what the fans who came to Sunday's Camping World RV 400 saw at Dover International Speedway.
"We were going at it," Greg Biffle said after winning for the second straight week and stamping himself as a prime contender in a championship battle in which Kyle Busch is no longer, at least for now, a relevant topic. "That's what we love to do."
The "we" in question involved a Roush Fenway Racing trifecta of Biffle, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards, who slugged it out over the final 40 laps or so in a fashion that even the surliest NASCAR fan longing for the sport's "good ol' days" had to appreciate.
Nobody wrecked anybody. Nobody had a fight. But short of that this was good stuff.
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"That's Friday - or Saturday - night racing, the kind of stuff you came from," Biffle said. "We were beating and banging on each other and that's what we love to do."
Reality, though, did creep in as Biffle recalled a finish that saw him wrestle the lead away from Kenseth on Lap 392 in a 400-lap event.
"There is just so much on the line," said Biffle, who has opened this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff with his season's first win at New Hampshire and followed that up here by becoming the first driver to win the first two Chase races.
"It doesn't get any more important than this."
True enough, but the constant lock in on the sport’s "big picture" sometimes leaves fans wanting more when it comes to seeing drivers trying to win a given race. On Sunday, though, nobody could have gone home wanting more.
That is, of course, unless you're a fan of Busch and his No. 18 Toyota team. After stumbling out of the Chase gate with a 34th-place finish a week ago, the team that won eight regular-season races and came into the playoff as the leader finished 43rd - dead last - Sunday because of an engine problem.
"We're out of the title hunt," said Busch, who is now last in the 12-man Chase and 210 points out of the top spot he'd inhabited all summer. "That's for sure."
That level of certainty may or may not be premature, but two races into the 10-race Chase it certainly seems that Biffle is legitimately a full-blown contender. Even though he's two-for-two in the Chase so far he's still not the points leader. Edwards, who wound up third in Sunday's battle, is 10 points ahead of both Biffle and two-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson, Sunday's fifth-place finisher.
"We've worked hard this season to get our car and our team where we need to be ... and it's starting to show up," Biffle said. "If you want to use the term peaking at the right time, you could."
Sunday's race peaked over the final 44 laps, following the final round of pit stops. Edwards led going to pit road and kept the top spot by taking only two tires - a strategy his team had applied with some success earlier in the day. Mark Martin, Biffle, Kenseth and Johnson were behind him and all had four fresh tires for the restart on Lap 357.
Kenseth moved first, surging to second by Lap 360. Biffle got by Martin two laps later and the three Roushketeers were all lined up. Kenseth began working on Edwards, with Edwards countering by taking the high lane away from his Ford teammate.
Kenseth got the lead on Lap 378, but by that time Biffle was in the mix, too, and it was on.
Biffle got his chance on Lap 391, making a three-wide challenge while trying to use a lapped car to his advantage in the bargain to get just to Kenseth's outside.
Kenseth did everything he possibly could to hold his teammate off - short of causing a wreck. Paint was rubbed and fenders were scraped, but one lap later Biffle completed the pass and was on his way to another win.
"I got my nose out there and I couldn't give up," Biffle said of his determination to make the pass once the door had been shoved ever-so-slightly ajar.
"It was fun," Kenseth said. "And it was intense."
Even Edwards, who finished third, had a good time.
"That's the most fun you can have right there," Edwards said. "I could do that all night."
Team owner Jack Roush, of course, had more than a passing interest in what was going on. "I was just hoping they didn't get tangled up in a hairball there," he said.
They did not, but that doesn't mean Roush is out of the woods. With eight races left, Biffle and Edwards are now locked into the tight three-way championship battle with Johnson. Jeff Burton, Sunday's ninth-place finisher, is fourth in the standings 82 points back.